Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Apr 04 07:11:35 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #31

%T Kaleidoscope
%A Harry Turtledove
%I Del Rey/Ballantine
%D April 1990
%O paperback, US$3.95
%P 249
%G 0-345-36477-5

Kaleidoscope is this month's classiest act from Del Rey -- an anthology of good stuff from Harry Turtledove (aka Eric Iverson), author of the fantasy Videssos Cycle, Noninterference, and long one of Analog's best short-story contributors.

This anthology has many of the strengths I praised in Elizabeth Moon's Lunar Activity (RR#30). Turtledove is maybe a little better at the `traditional' SF virtues of idea content, action, and `sense of wonder', and maybe a shade less good at characterization. For my taste this makes him marginally the better SF writer of the two; others may differ.

I think this book is worth its cover price just for The Boring Beast, a side-splittingly funny pastiche of the Howardian sub-genre in which Condom the Trojan (duhh...) does battle with the evil sorcerer Sloth-Amok...but then I have a low mind and an affinity for slapstick.

The SF high points of the anthology include And So To Bed, Bluff, The Road Not Taken, and Hindsight, all excellent stories which appeared in Analog and in various ways exemplify what has always been most valuable about that magazine. Hindsight includes one scene which has stuck with me for years ever since I first read it; an utterly convincing portrait of the reaction of an intelligent person from 1953 to modern high-voltage rock guitar that condescends to neither the person nor the music.

Turtledove also demonstrates that he's capable of fantasy more lyrical than the enjoyable but somewhat heavy-handed Videssos Cycle, in the back-to-back stories The Castle Of The Sparrowhawk and The Summer Garden. And he presents us with a horror-tinged vampire fantasy that manages to be charming in Gentlemen Of The Shade.

Like Lunar Activity, this anthology gives us a nice cross-section of the work of a promising journeyman writer who may mature into a master of the genre. I think Turtledove needs to get looser, less afraid to take chances, and maybe step away a little from the role of "Analog writer"; this anthology makes it clear that he has a wider range, and I think even his hard SF would benefit if he exercised it more.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed Apr 04 07:11:35 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>